Sun 3 Jun 2007
I’m glad to see you too.
Theatrical Release Date: 06/21/2006 (France), 05/04/2007 (USA)
Directors: Olivier Assayas, Frédéric Auburtin & Gérard Depardieu, Gurinder Chadha, Sylvain Chomet, Joel & Ethan Coen, Isabel Coixet, Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuarón, Christopher Doyle, Richard LaGravenese, Vincenzo Natali, Alexander Payne, Bruno Podalydès, Walter Salles & Daniela Thomas, Oliver Schmitz, Nobuhiro Suwa, Tom Tykwer, Gus Van Sant
Cast: Steve Buscemi, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Sergio Castellitto, Miranda Richardson, Gaspard Ulliel, Leonor Watling, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe, Nick Nolte, Ludivine Sagnier, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Bob Hoskins, Elijah Wood, Emily Mortimer, Rufus Sewell, Natalie Portman, Gérard Depardieu, Ben Gazzara, Gena Rowlands
Okay, so you either already know the premise of “Paris, je t’aime” or by looking at the ridiculously long director and cast listing above, you’ve come to the realization the film is a series of vignettes.
All taking place in Paris, these stories are some of the many varied incarnations that love can take shape as – from mimes to vampires to French people, everyone has the ability to fall in love.
Describing each segment of the film would garner the type of review that looked more like a senior thesis than an opinion piece. That being said, there are some segments that stood out to me.
Oliver Schmitz’ “Place des Fêtes” was the most heartbreaking, about a man who had been stabbed and was being treated by the woman who had led him to the time and place where he was attacked. It wasn’t intentional and more like an extreme case of cause and effect, yet no matter how unlikely the scenario, it plays out beautifully and full of sorrow at the same time.
Tom Tykwer’s “Faubourg Saint-Denis” is about Natalie Portman’s aspiring actress character and her blind boyfriend. Done largely in a time-lapse style, it is one of the few segments that built so much back-story within their limited time frame.
Alfonso Cuarón’s “Parc Monceau” wasn’t the most engaging segment by any means but he did it all in one shot, which makes it kinda cool. It appeared that there was some ADR work done in parts of it that made it hard to see if their mouths matched the lines but still interesting to see from a film making perspective.
The Coen Brothers’ “Tuileries” was the most comic of them all, utilizing Steve Buscemi well and a welcome change of pace from many of the other, more serious stories.
Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas’ “Loin du 16ème” was perhaps the most thought provoking segment, about a nanny who has to leave her own child in daycare and travel across town to care for another woman’s baby.
Rounding out my spotlight is Vincenzo Natali’s “Quartier de la Madeleine”, where Elijah Wood happens upon a vampire out on the prowl. Oddly enough, this was not necessarily the most out of place segment and even more odd is that this wasn’t the Wes Craven segment.
What works about “Paris, je t’aime” is the work as a whole. At the end of each segment, you can tell whether you were intrigued or not by how much you’re annoyed that the film has moved on to another segment.
Some are like hooks, digging into you, making you want more. Others are nice enough but nothing special and there was one or two that I would have rather cut to make room for expanded versions of some of the rest.
This type of film, using short little vignettes, is something much more common to European film (like Jim Jarmusch‘s wonderful “Night on Earth”) and perhaps with 2005′s “Nine Lives”, there are some other directors looking to take advantage of the possibilities this format can provide.
Sadly, I think if Hollywood really does try to adopt this idea, they’ll figure out some horrible way of botching it … but I’m a cynic.
I still have issues with the half-hearted ending that tries to be all-encompassing and there are some segments that I could have done without. Also, just about all of the vignettes take place in the more touristy sections of town … it felt almost like a Disneyfied version of what Paris is probably like (since I’ve never been there).
Still, many of the stories were beautifully done and the lasting effect this film had on me was akin to taking a trip to Paris itself – since I had just experienced so many different stories in the city, it was almost like how your memory stores a vacation.
While “Knocked Up” is the funny love story of the summer, this is the more traditional approach and I’m going to surrender a 4 out of 5 to “Paris, je t’aime”.